To each their own -I'm also not sure that I'd like the bar end shifters either, judging by the amount of time I (don't) spend in the drops, and the fact -at least to me -it seems like you have less control based on your hand position you assume to shift over other shifting systems.
I think if price were no object I'd go with the Paul's thumbies -easy, simple, reliable and your hands are in a good position to retain control. The problem is that Paul's thumbies are expensive (~$60?), plus you have to buy the shifters as well (~$60?). Other alternatives are to go with mtb bars with barends or trekking bars -these will allow you to use Rapidfire or gripshift rather than road bike specific controls. I have trekking bars with 9-speed NOS Centera gripshifts I bought on ebay for about $12. I really like the setup, and I've never had problems with gripshifts; again, I like the idea of retaining good control while I shift. There is also the other option of using -and I can't remember the name -of a piece of hardware that is similar to the thumbies, but goes near the hoods. I think the company went out of business, but I know someone on this group has them as I remember seeing a photo of them. They looked promising too.
By the way, why do you think brifters are unreliable for touring? I used STIs (new Tiagra for around $80 shipped off Ebay -and even though I would have preferred Pauls Thumbies, I was short on the money side of things so went for the STIs) before I went the trekking bar route after a realization they could work. Yes, I'm sure brifters are inherently less reliable than DTs/Bar ends/Thumbies/Gripshift, but they are still very very reliable. I've got thousands of miles on Tiagra STIs with no problems at all.